DENVER – It was no shock that State Rep. Ron Hanks and Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters easily lost their recent Republican primaries in Colorado for U.S. Senate and Secretary of State.
Hanks was passed 14 to 1 by his rival. Peters, who was vying to become Colorado’s top election official, had been charged with seven felony counts alleging she helped orchestrate a hard-drive breach of her voting system.
But last week both candidates formally called for a recount of their June 28 primary elections, suggesting widespread irregularities seen by none other than their own campaigns and allies.
“I have reason to believe that much mischief happened in the June 2022 primary,” Peters wrote in his recount request, “and that the apparent outcome of this election does not reflect the will of the voters of the Colorado, not only for me, but also for many other Americans First statewide and local primary candidates.
America First is a coalition of conservative candidates and office holders who, among other things, promote the lie that Democrat Joe Biden did not win the 2020 presidential election.
That idea has seeped deeply into this year’s Republican primaries, which revealed a new political strategy among many candidates: running on a platform that denies President Donald Trump’s defeat two years ago. As some of these candidates lose their own races, they are reaching new frontiers in election denial by insisting that these primaries were also rigged.
“There’s a clear reason they’re doing this, and it’s a much larger coordinated attack on free suffrage across the country,” said Joanna Lydgate of States United Action. His group supports election officials who recognize the validity of the 2020 elections.
Noting that she coaches youth basketball, Lydgate added another reason: “Really, these are people who are bad losers, people who don’t want to accept defeat.”
The main losers have an obvious role model: Trump himself.
After his first election loss in his 2016 run for the White House, in the Iowa caucuses, Trump baselessly claimed fraud and demanded an investigation. When he was elected president later that year, he claimed fraud was the reason Democrat Hillary Clinton won more votes than he did. Trump has set up a commission to try to prove this. This commission was dissolved when it produced no evidence.
After his defeat in 2020, Trump and his supporters lost 63 of 64 legal challenges in the election. Trump continued to blame the fraud, without evidence, even after his own attorney general and state election reviews found no widespread wrongdoing that would impact the outcome.
The refusal of this year’s post-primary election could be a preview for November, when Republicans face Democrats in thousands of races across the country. The GOP is expected to do well — an expectation that could pave the way for more bogus allegations of fraud when some of these candidates lose.
Still, some Republicans aren’t waiting for Democratic voters to step in before making unsubstantiated fraud allegations.
Some recent candidates who have done this are relatively marginal.
In Georgia, Trump’s two recruits to challenge the state’s governor and secretary of state — former Sen. David Perdue and Rep. Jody Hice — admitted defeat after losing the May primaries. But Kandiss Taylor, a fringe candidate who won just 3% of the primary vote for governor, refused to back down, saying there was widespread cheating.
In South Carolina, Republican Harrison Musselwhite — who goes by Trucker Bob — lost his primary to Gov. Henry McMaster by 66 percentage points. Still, he complained of problems with the state party election, as did another losing GOP candidate, Lauren Martel, who ran for attorney general. The party rejected their demands.
Others who cried cheating are more prominent.
Joey Gilbert, who came second in Nevada’s Republican gubernatorial primary, posted a video on Facebook days after the June tally showing him 26,000 votes short. “These elections, the way they went, it’s like Swiss cheese,” he said. “There are too many holes.”
Gilbert, who attended Trump’s rally near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, before the riot at the U.S. Capitol, demanded a recount. The results seem unlikely to significantly alter the final tally. He did not return messages seeking comment.
In Arizona, former news anchor Kari Lake won Trump’s endorsement in her quest for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, insisting he had won the presidency in 2020. Last week, she told his supporters that his main opponent in the primary “could try to set the stage for another flight” in next month’s primary.
That earned her a rebuke from Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican who backed Lake’s main rival, Karin Taylor Robson.
“The 2022 election hasn’t even happened yet, and already we’re seeing speculation doubting the results – especially if some candidates lose,” Ducey tweeted. “It’s one of the most irresponsible things I can imagine.”
Lake’s campaign did not return messages seeking comment.
In Colorado, county clerk Peters immediately questioned the early results once the tally showed her losing in the race for secretary of state. Claiming the fraud as she trailed former county clerk Pam Anderson, a regular debunker of Trump’s election lies, Peters said, “Looking at the results, it’s so obvious it should be reversed.”
She and Senate candidate Hanks repeated Trump’s campaign lies, a stance that won them strong support last spring at the 3,000-strong GOP state assembly, a convention attended by the most powerful members of the party. Both candidates, in letters to the secretary of state’s office last week asking for a recount, cited that support as why they couldn’t have lost their primaries.
Hanks referred a reporter to a media email address for both candidates, though no one responded to questions sent to that address.
Activists attending the GOP rally are just a small fraction of the 600,000 who voted in the June primary. According to preliminary results, Peters lost by 88,000 votes and Hanks by 56,000 votes.
Their recount letters gave reasons why the candidates believed these vote counts were “artificially controlled”.
The Colorado secretary of state’s office said a recount would cost $236,000 for each candidate. Friday evening, the deadline set by the office to receive the money, no candidate had paid, according to spokeswoman Annie Orloff.
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This story has been corrected to reflect that Jody Hice is a current US Representative from Georgia, not a former House member.
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